The machine-to-machine (M2M) paradigm is the main enabler of the internet of things (IoT) by providing ubiquitous and constant connectivity between numerous intelligent devices. The use of wireless communication has made M2M communication easier and enabled it for many more applications. This article examines how emerging 5G systems will drive the evolution of M2M.
M2M comprises interconnected infrastructure and systems that enable compliant devices to be controlled and monitored using centralized systems, without human intervention. Automatic operation of systems without manual intervention makes it easier and cheaper to manage them and provides new possibilities.
An M2M network is self-organizing and allows seamless connection of autonomous devices through heterogeneous wired or wireless communication networks. Most of the M2M devices are field-deployable with embedded sensors and use a diverse range of communication systems such as RFID, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, WiMAX, wireless LAN, cellular and others.
M2M applications include remote monitoring, manufacturing, telemedicine, home automation, smart cities, industrial, automotive, traffic control, logistics and supply chain management, security, robotics, and many more.
With a large number of applications, the growth of connected devices using M2M is expected to expand rapidly.
M2M growth projections
Globally, M2M is expected to constitute half of the connected devices by 2023. In recent months, many projections for the growth of M2M applications have been made.
Cisco predicts that: “M2M home applications will have a major share at 48% by 2023 and connected car applications growth will be fastest at 30% CAGR over the forecast period (2018–2023).”
According to a Research and Markets report: “The machine to machine (M2M) services market is expected to grow at CAGR of 28.61% during the forecast period (2020-2025).”
Another report from Cisco indicates that: “The share of Machine-To-Machine (M2M) connections will grow from 33 percent in 2018 to 50 percent by 2023. There will be 14.7 billion M2M connections by 2023.”
M2M communication requirements
M2M communication requires autonomous communication between a large number of intelligent devices, such as sensors and actuators, which send small data packets simultaneously using a diverse range of applications. This communication differs from human to human mobile communication and requires infrastructure different in terms of packet size, traffic density and quality of service.
The key requirements of M2M communication are:
- Low latency
- Ultra-low power consumption
- Scalability to handle an extremely large number of devices
- Long-term reliability
- High speed and bandwidth for certain applications such as augmented reality and autonomous cars
- Small data size for certain applications
With a substantial growth in M2M devices projected, the networks will require a scalable solution that supports the increasing number of M2M devices with varying characteristics and requirements.
To enable interoperability between M2M services and networks, European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) has defined M2M system architecture in ETSI Technical Standard (TS) 690 and M2M Service Requirements in TS 689. With published standards, the growth of M2M has taken on another dimension accelerated by industries adopting them instead of being burdened with proprietary technologies/systems.
5G features and M2M complement each other
Traditionally, M2M communication has used a wide range of communication systems, depending on the use cases. Cellular systems have been used only in certain environments.
Use of the cellular network for large-scale M2M infrastructure faces hurdles in terms of latency and speed, even with 4G based services. The latency issue becomes more noticeable as more devices are added to the network.
5G technology, with a diverse range of applications, low latency, higher speed, and large bandwidth, provides a worthy solution to M2M communication requirements. For example, autonomous vehicles will communicate with low latency and high reliability using 5G technology. The 5G system can provide networking technologies for ubiquitous connectivity and guaranteed QoS.
The industry has recognized the potential of 5G technology for M2M communications and is shaping the underlying systems that are 5G enabled. Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) protocol LwM2M is a step in this direction. LwM2M was designed for low data, low power, and constrained resource devices with cellular technologies such as LTE-M and NB IoT in mind.
The European Union’s project called Mobile and Wireless Communications Enablers for the Twenty-twenty Information Society (METIS) developed a user-centric 5G system concept to provide three generic services: extreme Mobile BroadBand (xMBB), ultra-reliable Machine-Type Communication (uMTC) and massive MTC (mMTC).
- xMBB service provides high data rates for applications such as augmented reality or remote presence. The reliability of the system improves as the data rates moderate.
- mMTC service caters to a massive number of cost- and energy-constrained devices with low data rates such as surveillance systems or body area network.
- uMTC caters to systems that require ultra-reliable and time-critical services such as vehicle to vehicle/infrastructure communication or industrial control systems where low data rate, low latency, a smaller number of devices with high reliability are key issues.
5G uses a technology called network-slicing to provide a wide range of services such as those proposed by the METIS project. The network slicing allows building multiple logical networks on shared physical infrastructure. Each logical network caters to specific business requirements and allows efficient and economical network management.
The network slicing using technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) is transparent to the user and allows a mobile operator to run an independent end-to-end logical network catering to the customer specific requirements.
With network slicing, 5G will provide services for all three applications proposed by the METIS project. Thus, with 5G the M2M system can be configured using a single communication technology instead of going for different communication technology for each type of system or applications.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in their Recommendation ITU-R M.2083 has pointed out that maximum use of 5G for 2020 and beyond is expected to be for enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliable and low latency communications, and a large number of M2M communications.
Made for each other?
With M2M communication constraints removed, 5G technology is bound to fuel M2M growth. As a corollary, M2M networks, with their massive deployments, will provide new opportunities to 5G operators.
The speed, reliability, scalability and flexibility provided by 5G applications and services will be a key enabler of M2M technology and help it spread across all domains. It is imminent that these two technologies will complement each other to expand M2M services and also provide new business opportunities for 5G application and mobile service providers.